William Andrews Clark Memorial Library Tour

As a well-known English scholar once said, “A preservation field trip is good; a preservation field trip to the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library is better.” In accordance with this maxim, we embarked on a field trip to learn more about the famed property. Our tour was lead by Fran Anderson, who provided a wealth of fascinating details and anecdotes about the former building occupants, collections, and the buildings themselves.

It turns out there is more to the Clark Library than meets the eye.

A little known fact, the serene landscape, complete with expansive lawns and shaded nooks, is regularly open to the public. Have you been looking for a quiet place to eat a sandwich and leaf through the literary works of Oscar Wilde? Do you dislike Oscar Wilde but feel smarter when you lounge in close proximity to books?

The Clark Library might be for you.

Located in the West Adams neighborhood of Los Angeles, the remarkable buildings of the Clark Library were constructed in the mid-1920s by prominent local book collector and philanthropist William Andrews Clark, Jr. When Clark passed away in 1934 he donated the property and its collections to UCLA. The Clark Library currently houses rare books and manuscripts, with a concentration of resources related to seventeenth-nineteenth century English literature and history. To accommodate the growing collection, an expansive underground facility was added to the property.  

And that’s not all.

We discovered that the Clark Library contains a fascinating array of artists’ books. Also called “uniques,” artists’ books are one-of-a-kind artworks realized in the form of a book. Examples are miniature or oversized editions, books with special calligraphy and leather-bound covers, parchment scrolls, and fold out pamphlets. There are also more avant-garde interpretations. The collection at the Clark Library includes an inflated plastic “pillow” with text scrawled across the front, as well as a deflated balloon featuring script and positioned inside a plastic cube. Thus, the variations on the art form are many.

Clearly, the Clark Library is not lacking in the charm of its buildings and setting, or in the wealth of the resources its collections have to offer. We thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to wade through these treasures and can’t wait to return!

The Chattel team poses near a fountain on the grounds of the Clark Library
View of Clark Library facade and main entrance

View of rear elevation of Clark Library and rear lawn

Carriage House on the Clark Library property

Our tour of the Clark Library interior

One of the reading rooms at the Clark Library